It emerged that Tobias Ellwood gave a speech at the Cavalry and Guards Club in Piccadilly hours before London entered the level 3 coronavirus restrictions.
The chairman of the Commons Defense Special Committee said he attended the British Business Council’s event in Iraq, which was described on the organizers’ website as a “party of Christmas’, for commercial purposes, in accordance with level 2 rules.
Apols re my well-intentioned participation in an Iraqi / UK business event.
It was fully Covid compliant and useful to know more about the direction of Iraq while British troops are still there.
But during this difficult time, perceptions matter. Something that I am now more aware of. pic.twitter.com/fAbEwILmna
– MP for Tobias Ellwood (@Tobias_Ellwood) December 17, 2020
The level 2 guidelines issued by the government state that “gatherings for business purposes are only permitted when reasonably necessary”.
Mr Ellwood, who is a Member of Parliament for Bournemouth East in Dorset, said the event was a ‘business reception / dinner’ where he ‘gleaned extremely useful information’ on issues on the ground in the Middle -East.
He attended the event a day after telling the House of Commons that allowing families to reunite over Christmas “could be very dangerous indeed,” and suggesting that loosening the rules during the holiday season could lead to a “third wave” of the virus.
“The event was held at Cavalry and Guards Club compliance under strict COVID compliant conditions,” Ellwood said in a statement after his attendance was reported by the Daily Mail.
“During the duration of the Level 2 restrictions, the function rooms which can typically accommodate over 100 people have been converted to host business events for less than 30 people.
“I appreciate, given the current challenges, some will question the wisdom of my presence.
“I regret that the coverage of my well-meaning presence may have blurred the government’s clear message as we head into Christmas.
“While the event was fully COVID compliant – perceptions matter. ”
Home Secretary Priti Patel has suggested Mr Ellwood could face a fine for attending the event.
Asked by ITV News whether the MP’s actions were a “flagrant” violation of the rules, Ms Patel replied, “Well, they are. Of course, that’s exactly it.
“Dining outside the rules with a large number of people is a violation of the rules. ”
When asked if Mr Ellwood should be punished, the Home Secretary replied: “There are fixed penalty notices. I don’t know the details on where this happened or the venue, but I’m sure as this is a will be followed. ”
Asked about Mr Ellwood, Boris Johnson’s spokesman said in a regular briefing with reporters: “I will tell you what the Home Secretary said.
“The Prime Minister has been clear throughout the pandemic that it is vital for everyone to play by the rules in order to remove the virus and therefore protect the NHS and save lives. ”
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David Cowdery, secretary of the Cavalry and Guards Club, said: “We do not comment on private events here at the club.
“The full COVID policy issued by the club has been handed over to the event organizers. ”